A little known aspect of the border crisis is that drug cartels, such as illegal marijuana growers in the Antelope Valley of Los Angeles County, are using illegal immigration to solidify their transnational criminal business.
Rep. Mike García (R-CA) denounced this problem in a column for the Washington Examiner: ” In Southern California’s high desert, there are thousands of large-scale illegal marijuana grows run by transnational criminal organizations and worked by indentured servants and illegal immigrants. These grows are bad for the environment, wasting natural resources, not regulated or taxed, funneling money to foreign nations, and a threat to citizens’ livelihoods.”
One of the localities most impacted by illegal marijuana planting is California’s Antelope Valley. Insecurity has increased due to extortionists involved in the illegal marijuana business against local citizens and there has been a negative impact on the legal marijuana business in California.
Illicit cannabis cultivation is having a high negative environmental, economic and social impact, with the cartels taking advantage of weak California law enforcement, the federal government’s immigration policies and the underfunding of law enforcement agencies fighting drugs in the Golden State.
Nonetheless, June 8 was a historic day, dealing an unprecedented major blow to marijuana cartels in the Antelope Valley.
“Hundreds of large-scale marijuana grow sites, operated by drug cartels, were taken down in the Antelope Valley on Tuesday as part of one of the largest operational raids in Los Angeles County history,” The Valley Post reported.
“In 2020, there were an estimated 150 illegal cannabis operations in the High Desert, growing to over 500 in 2021,” the media outlet added.
“The border crisis is not just at the border, it is in towns across America – including in my district in California. The illegal marijuana growth problem in California has been fueled by our current lack of border security,” Rep. García told El American in an exclusive statement.
García was one of the few politicians who supported the initiative to crack down on illegal marijuana grows in Los Angeles County.
A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Garcia pushed for better funding for law enforcement and also for the Justice Department to eliminate the $19,000 cap on overtime for law enforcement officers.
“In Congress, I am working to address the current overtime cap placed on law enforcement that is hindering their ability to enforce the law to the extent necessary in this region. On the Appropriations Committee, I am also fighting to ensure we properly fund our law enforcement and fund resources to secure our border,” he told El American.
The Antelope Valley crops
After many citizens in the area began to report harassment by marijuana cartel criminals, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department took matters into its own hands by designing a strategy in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and several local agencies to enforce law and order.
According to County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, threats from mafia members against locals were constant and the common practice was to steal water for their crops. This became serious for the residents, because in that desert area of the county, water supply is scarce.
In addition, according to authorities, illegal cultivation damages groundwater because the chemicals used to grow the crops seep into the groundwater.
García also urged local Californian authorities to become more involved in the drug war and explained that a fundamental part of the war is to secure the border to prevent cartels from taking advantage of disadvantaged immigrants.
“The grows are run by transnational criminal organizations and worked by 90 – 95% illegal immigrants. The continued call from the radical left to defund the police is also not helping. This week’s historic raid to combat the illegal marijuana grows was progress, but the problem will only continue if we do not secure our border and fund the police,” García commented.
The Valley Post reported that “over 400 personnel in the joint operation served dozens of search warrants at 200 locations across the High Desert” and that at least 23 people associated with the cartels were arrested and a variety of firearms were seized as part of the raid.
The amount of marijuana seized Antelope Valley is in the tons (not yet fully accounted for) and, according to Villanueva, are valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
“The number of greenhouses at each grow varied from eight to 15. The largest site, which is believed to be the largest illegal cannabis operation in L.A. County, had 74 grow tents spanning over 10 acres,” noted the Valley Post.
The operations will continue and this first strike is just a first step as authorities plan more raids in the Antelope Valley to sweep through 500 illegal marijuana crops.